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Parting the Sea

Posted by kevinwolz on March 18, 2010

Before we jump into spring break, I should discuss my “mini-break” three weeks ago. I was granted a four-day sabbatical (I wish) to trek up to WI. There was quite a lot of driving in a few short days, but WOW was it worth it! This was really my first in-person exposure to many of the people, places, and activities of the summer.

My first stop was the innovative “farm” near our cottage. There, I finally met One Straw Rob in person! We worked for a bit planting lettuce (in February!?!) and then he gave me the “short” tour of the farm (~2hrs). I’m afraid I came off a little shy in this first encounter, as I didn’t do much talking. There was just SO much to take in all at once that my brain could barely keep up, let alone articulate anything meaningful. I plan on spend a large chunk of my time here over the summer, so all the juicy details will come in due time.

I distinctly recall an English unit in 8th grade in which we explored utopian ideas and literature. One of the concepts I think we were supposed t o get out of that unit was that utopias are not possible. Bah! I say, for I have now seen my Utopia.

After Utopia, I headed up to LaCrosse, WI for the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farming Conference. I arrived at MOSES during breakfast, which consisted of over 1000 people eating an all-you-can-eat, 100% organic (duh) buffet of amazing food. I ate with a few strangers and overheard some of the most intense conversations about figs you can imagine. Following breakfast, the masses dispersed to several presentations of their choosing. My first was essentially “Mushroom Growing 101”. I took voracious notes and left convinced that I would try some fungal farming of my own this summer. I am still open to this, but am having a hard time sourcing the substrates with which to do so (large cardboard box(es) and/or several relatively fresh softwood logs for the “totem method“). My next presentation was essentially “Agroforestry 101” and was so amazing that I skipped the last session of presentations and just hung around with (okay, borderline stalked) the presenter for the rest of the day. As agroforestry will be a huge topic for the rest of the summer, I’ll save the details for another time, but I still want to throw the “Six Agroforestry Practices” at you for some mental stimulation until then:

  1. Wind Breaks
  2. Forest Farming
  3. Alley Cropping
  4. Silvopasture
  5. Riparian Buffers
  6. Multiple Layers

In between presentations I also managed to meet up and talk with two of the cool cats I’ll be working with over the summer. These were awesome conversations that quadrupled my anxious anticipation for May. So many cool ideas and projects! Throughout the day, one of the truly exciting things was the amazing diversity of attendees. There were the Amish dairymen, the tie-dyed hippies, the black-suited agrobusinessmen, the newbies, the experts, and even a utopian farmer dealing out some kind of cool-aid.

I drank the cool aid.

After a day full of sustainable ag, I must say that the sea of bare black earth that I drove through on the way home was quite the slap in the face. Not sustainable in the least, and obviously so at this time of year. Revitalizing this unsustainable sea is pretty intimidating, but with everyone I met on this trip on my team, I’m sure we can do anything…even part the sea.


2 Responses to “Parting the Sea”

  1. onestraw said

    Thanks for coming up and helping make our “Utopian” vision possible. After your class, you likely have become our Mushroom Expert for the summer. If interested, we will give you space, supplies, various locally available growing mediums, and I have several bags of spawn in the fridge from the MOSES conference. We need to know how mushrooms will fit into our systems; we have alot of theory that needs to be fleshed out. When you come up next week we can dump some books from Paul Staments on you. One of them is even signed – and we all know that makes the information even more poignant!

    If Kingdom Fungi doesn’t make your heart sing, there is plenty of other things to dig into you. One of the legion up sides of permaculture designed linked biological Energy+Food systems is that they are never boring!

    Looking forward to working with you again next week.

  2. PiterJankovich said

    My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

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